This month we speak with Catherine Loder, Governance Officer, Wattle Range Council.
Catherine speaks to us about working for a rural council, the excitement being part of the winning team in the Rural Management Challenge last year - and how her participation in the ELP (Emerging Leaders Program) helped her both on the day, and in the preparation for the event.
What's your current role, and what does in involve?
I am Council’s Governance Officer and work part-time. A current key project I am leading is the council elections. Other core elements that I work on include policies, delegations, authorisations, Freedom of Information, maintaining council’s website, obligations under the Local Government Act, reporting to council and council committees.
I also dabble in some side projects such as developing Council’s SharePoint site and helping to automate processes where possible.
What do you enjoy most about working for a rural council?
Most of all I enjoy the diversity of work and that there is always something different or a new challenge that I get to be a part of. I also enjoy the working relationships with other regional councils and being able to share experiences across our network.
Last year, Wattle Range Council won the Rural Management Challenge. How did it feel to be part of the winning team?
It was wonderful to hear our Council being named the winner. We all put in our best effort and it was nice to be recognised for this.
How did your team members react?
With great surprise! Our goals were to have fun, learn and grow, which we all felt we had achieved through participating. Winning was an added bonus!
What have been the key benefits of participation in the Rural Management Challenge - to both team members and your council?
Collectively we have gained broader understanding of the diverse functions of council. The pre-challenge task started conversations across the whole council, which are continuing.
What positives did you personally take away from the experience? Has it changed your perspective on your career goals? How?
Participating in the challenge meant that I was able to extend myself on tasks that are not part of my normal role. Through the feedback received and our team success, I feel more confident that I have the skills and capabilities to make my career goals achievable.
Has the council used the team for anything else since the Rural Management Challenge (e.g. as a cross-functional team?)
Our team has reconvened on a couple of occasions to present to council’s Executive Leadership Team and the full staff body.
Our council sometimes pulls together a multi-disciplinary team to approach a project- the team members will usually be dependent on the project.
How have you, and your fellow team members grown since the Rural Management Challenge (in terms of career, opportunities, capabilities, leadership)?
We are all still part of Wattle Range Council, with one member securing full-time employment with council following completion of their traineeship.
We are all working towards our own goals and aspirations such as undertaking tertiary studies, further training, taking on voluntary positions in council or taking on leadership of projects where possible.
Did your experience gained through doing the ELP help your team's approach to the Rural Management Challenge? What skills/experience from the ELP came in handy?
The Rural Management Challenge provided me with many opportunities to directly apply what I learnt during the ELP.
Being able to better understand team dynamics, change management and values-based approaches were some of the key experiences that I found myself drawing upon regularly.
Would you recommend the Rural Management Challenge to other rural councils thinking of participating for the first time?
Yes. If you have people in your organisation that are looking to develop themselves, expand their thinking, change the way they are going about their business, or perhaps need an opportunity to work outside the confines of the office, then I think the Rural Management Challenge has something to offer.
A final word - Can you provide some tips on how to get the most out of the Rural Management Challenge?
The preparation time in the lead up to the challenge day is very valuable. Get to know your team and what you want to achieve as a team and individuals.